Arinsal in the Vallnord ski area of Andorra offers very good value for money for skiing and snowboarding holidays; with its compact ski area, highly acclaimed ski school and lively unpretentious nightlife, it presents a very good choice for beginners and early intermediates.
Arinsal is the principal resort village in the Vallnord ski domain, located in the north-western parishes of the Principality of Andorra, and is just 10 km drive from Andorra's bustling little capital city, Andorra la Vella. Vallnord is the collective name for the linked ski areas of Arinsal and Pal (La Massana), plus the separate ski area of Arcalis in the neighbouring parish of Ordino; the Pal-Arinsal ski area is comprised of two separate areas that are linked by cable car, but there are no linking pistes. The main slopes and service lodges are sited high above the villages at a snow-sure altitude of 1950m, accessed via gondola lifts based in the centre of Arinsal village (for the Arinsal sector) and in the parish town of La Massana (for the Pal sector) lower down the valley.
Generally appealing to a young & lively clientele, Arinsal is best suited to couples and groups of friends and anyone who regards having fun on holiday as being as important as the skiing.
The lift-linked sectors that form the combined Pal-Arinsal ski area are quite distinct in character, and together offer a fair variety of terrain, albeit limited in extent.
When snow conditions are at their best, with sufficient cover down to village level, the Arinsal sector can boast the greatest vertical drop in Andorra: 1010m from the highest lift-served point on Pic Alt de la Capa down to the lowest chairlift base at Arinsal's Cota 1550 suburb, more than 3000 ft of non-stop on-piste descent from top to bottom.
Arinsal’s core ski area is centred on an elongated snowbowl, surrounded by the summits of Pic Alt de la Capa, Pic Negre, and the nearby Pic de Coma Pedrosa (Andorra's highest peak). The uppermost slopes on Pic Alt de la Capa and Pic Negre offer some short red and black-graded runs, and this upper zone also houses a well-maintained snowpark and the link lifts for the connection with the Pal ski area, but the principal slopes at Arinsal are focused around a straightforward pair of long blue pistes which funnel down from the upper snowbowl to the busy service-lodge complex at Arinsal's mid-altitude base area.
The Pal sector is more extensive and offers greater variety: gentle green and blue-graded traverses, enjoyable blue and red-profile cruising, mogul fields, plus a gladed 'FreeRide Area', with the majority of the runs through attractive wooded slopes.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Arinsal's proximity to Andorra la Vella is appealing, particularly for anyone seeking a destination that can offer more than a solely ski-focused holiday. The local bus routes via nearby La Massana open up connections throughout the principality and put the fabulous 'Caldea' thermal hydro-spa complex and glitzy shopping attractions of the capital within easy reach of the resort. The 4-star Princesa Parc hotel complex in Arinsal village also houses an excellent hydro-spa suite, as well as a popular tenpin bowling and games arcade.
The range of alternative activities on offer up at the pedestrian-accessible base-lodge levels at the ski areas is also quite interesting, particularly over at Pal: with snowmobile and dog-sled circuits, snowshoe treks, sledging, helicopter flights, and a laser-combat battlefield (similar to paint-balling).
In the evenings, the focus for fun shifts away from the mountains and turns towards the resort's many friendly bars. Most stay open until 3am and many offer regular live music and themed entertainment. The key central pubs are the Quo Vadis, Cisco's and El Cau. There aren't really any proper nightclubs as such in Arinsal, but two old-school disco-style venues - the Solana and the Surf - cater for those who want to boogie.